ANY public institution that seeks to serve the people recognises that its workforce must reflect the demographics of that society. Who better to do this and address the concerns of a vulnerable community — and sensitise others about issues specific to them — than its own members? The recent announcement by IGP Sindh pledging to recruit and ensure a 5pc quota for transgender people in the provincial police department is a heartening first step towards that end. Pakistan’s trans community has had a fraught, often traumatising, history in interactions with the police, or any public institution for that matter. This endeavour can go a long way in repairing their relationship. Given how disturbingly prevalent violence against trans people is in Pakistan, inclusion in the force can improve their safety, as increased visibility in mainstream society (particularly in positions of authority) helps dispel social stigmas, and empowers trans people to report crimes to the police without fear. Moreover, precedents of this kind can spur other institutions to adopt trans-inclusive policies of their own — which are, it ought to be stressed, mandated both by federal legislation passed last year and numerous prior orders by the higher judiciary.
The announcement appears to be part of a broader strategy of rehabilitating Sindh Police’s image to appear a more people-friendly institution, as the IGP also spoke of recruiting minorities and those with disabilities. Given how important police-citizen contact is in shaping public perceptions about the force, this signals a welcome shift in focusing on overlooked community policing functions to ensure public safety. But inclusion doesn’t end at simply reforming hiring practices; there must be a holistic strategy of professional development to ensure equality of opportunity for recruits from marginalised backgrounds, as well as sensitisation of all officers to eradicate unconscious biases in interactions with, for example, trans colleagues. There is much more progress to be made, but with every step towards institutional diversity and inclusion, we as a society are further strengthened.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2019